Kids face Buddy Program wait lists | AspenTimes.com

Kids face Buddy Program wait lists

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Buddy Programs in Aspen and Basalt are facing a critical shortage of adults, forcing children in need of mentors onto waiting lists.

The program, which pairs adult volunteer mentors with young people, has more than 20 children on waiting lists in the towns.

Program coordinator Sole Lowe said some Big Buddies moved out of the area just as many children from the downvalley Latino community were signing up.

With many kids waiting for mentors, the program hopes local adults decide to get involved.

“The main reason to do this is to help a kid in need,” Lowe said.

Young people ages 5 to 18 are referred to the program for many reasons, she said, including a lack of supervision or neglect at home, abusive situations, or kids from single-parent households that need more companionship.

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Lately the program has been implementing cross-cultural matches, pairing Latino children with Anglo Big Buddies.

“It’s great because we have some kids who came to the states three to four months ago whose English skills were pretty low, and their Big Buddy helps them” develop those skills, Lowe said. “Kids pick up the language quickly, so the only challenge for the Big Buddy is with parents, but they work it out.

“We have a Big Buddy who eats dinners and lunches regularly with a [Spanish-speaking] family, and they find a way to communicate, somehow.”

The Buddy Program has been connecting screened and trained adult mentors with young people from Aspen to El Jebel since 1973. The pairs meet two to three times a month for at least a year, doing a range of activities, from hiking to eating out.

The program offers more than 20 free activities during the year, including classes at The Cooking School of Aspen, art classes, hut trips and horseback riding. Buddies are eligible for many discounts all over town, Lowe said, including free admittance to the Snowmass Club or the Aspen Meadows, and discounts at local restaurants.

The benefit of being together, Lowe said, is being able to share life experiences while having fun.

“We hope potential volunteers recognize the tremendous need to step up and help Aspen and Basalt’s children,” she said.

Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com

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